If you're like me then the caffeine hit of a humble cup of tea or coffee just doesn't quite cut the mustard any more. Millions of us now seem to have left behind these disappointingly weak and antiquated beverages in favour of the ultra high caffeine punch provided by energy drinks. But as the demand for this product seems to have completely exploded, the different drinks on the market seem to be frantically scurrying to find increasingly diverse marketing and branding styles to stand out from the ever-growing crowd.
There are so many of these different branding areas for energy drinks that it's impossible to cover them all without writing a book. What there is time to highlight, though, are those drinks that particularly stand out for their branding efforts whether they be innovative, off-target or just down-right bizarre.
The first of the energy drink branding styles is perhaps also one of the most predominant at the moment. It's the area that belongs to what I call the 'Lord Of The Rings' drinks, simply because their adverts set a bench mark in overblown battle-scene excess that Peter Jackson himself would be proud of. The main two culprits in this category are 'Relentless' and the lesser known 'Cobra'. To be fair to Relentless, their recent 'virtues' ad is actually pretty cool in places. From what looks like a flock or crows flying in slow motion over an orange lit sky at dusk to some very cool matrix-esque blur lines that follow the actors' movements; some of the actual imagery in the ad is awesome. From MMA fighters to BMX riders, Relentless have clearly tried to tick the 'cool' and 'extreme' boxes here. It's a tad contrived but nothing that isn't impossible to overlook.
The only thing about this ad I think pushes it too far is the voice-over...
So as I injure the misfortune which lies in my path, I chase down my vision without diversion or retreat, and in the pursuit of my passions I'm neither timid nor afraid...
It seems that Relentless might have hired a team of visionary existential philosophers to comprise their new marketing department. If you pull yourself away from the ad halfway through and remind yourself that the ad is simply selling a can of drink you realise that this is all a bit ridiculous.
The energy drink 'Cobra' has an ad very similar to this which seems to unintentionally function like a full blown parody version of the relentless ad.
Now even though this ad is narrated in a foreign language I think it is reasonable to assume that even if it were in English it would still make absolutely no sense whatsoever. What are those things that guy is fighting? Why do they breathe fire? From some of the YouTube comments under the video it seems that maybe they are metaphorical demons. Whether they are or not, the ad still doesn't make a great deal of sense. Something that perhaps Relentless, and possibly Cobra as well, may have overlooked here is the somewhat paradoxical situation they present. They talk of these huge overblown issues of self overcoming, determination, success, glory, pain, suffering etc. Yet the magnitude of these issues seems to then be a tad diminished by the fact that they can all be overcome by cracking open a can of energy drink.
Another interesting area of branding in the energy drinks market are energy 'shots'. These could be made for a variety of different consumers. They could be made for those that are perhaps a tad embarrassed to guzzle the huge can of monster they crave whilst hanging out with their yoga-obsessed friends who are sipping on mountain spring water green tea. Of course, the buyer of the energy shot may not have image issues with the full sized energy drinks at all. It may just be that their need for caffeine fulfilment is so high that they are simply now basing their drink preferences on the least time they estimate it will take them to consume it and feel the effects.
One of the major manufacturers of these energy shots is '5 hour energy'. Something that stands out about their branding is how refreshingly un-dramatic and toned-down their advertising is compared to the type of thing Relentless would offer. Take a look at one of their ads below
Yes, it all feels quite low budget but what it lacks in grandeur may in fact be its strength. This ad isn't claiming to make you a better person or change your perspective on life, it's simply saying 'if you find mornings absolutely horrendous then downing one of these might make it a bit more bearable'. I would go and buy this product just out of appreciation for how unpretentious their advertising is.
The last piece of energy branding I wanted to share is the real wild card and my personal favourite. What do you do when all conceivable marketing angles have been taken? There are no other branding messages to make. To make your mark in this situation you need to rethink the process from step one and take a radically different route right from the beginning and that's exactly what Harcos Laboratories did with the two drinks they bought into the market called Blood Energy Potion and Zombie Blood. With a fantastic tongue in cheek website these products are like nothing else in the market.
The Blood Energy Potion has of course a far greater sense of realism than its green zombie counterpart. With the packaging based on the blood bags you would see hanging above someone's hospital bed and blood stained fingerprints on the packet this is certainly a very focused marketing effort. The drink can be drunk out of the sachet or it recommends microwaving the drink to carry the same approximate temperature as human blood. I think everything about this from the basic idea, to the packaging design and website is absolutely fantastic, or should I say fangtastic. Don't blame me for that one; they make that pun on their own packaging.
With these just being a few of the different branding tactics employed by some of the brands in the energy drinks market, it seems like you're going to have do something very, very out of the ordinary to stand out.
By Chris Fiander